Police and first responders in Fresno, California, are facing intense scrutiny after newly released video shows a man in their custody pleading, “I can’t breathe.” He later died on the way to the hospital. Michael George reports.
– Tonight, police and first responders in Fresno, California, are facing intense scrutiny. Newly-released video of a 2017 incident shows a man in their custody saying the now-infamous phrase, “I can’t breathe.” He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Here’s CBS’ Michael George.
JOSEPH PEREZ (RECORDING): Help. Help me.
MICHAEL GEORGE: These are among the last moments of Joseph Perez’ life. He died after being restrained by Fresno police officers in May of 2017. When officers saw Perez, they say he appeared disturbed, and was standing in the roadway.
– Joseph, we’re here to help you.
MICHAEL GEORGE: The 16-minute video released Friday was under a federal court order. It shows the 41-year-old Perez in distress, face-down on the ground.
MICHELLE PEREZ: 16 Minutes was the amount of time that I watched as my brother was being murdered.
MICHAEL GEORGE: A lawsuit filed by Perez family blames three entities, Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputies and Fresno Police and American Ambulance, which the family says requested police use a paramedics board to hold him down– a maneuver paramedics suggested to help secure Perez, so they could get him into the ambulance.
JOSEPH PEREZ (RECORDING): I can’t breathe.
– We got to– sit on that board.
MICHAEL GEORGE: The Police Chief at the time, Andrew Hall, said an internal investigation found no excessive force was used, and blames drugs for Perez’s death, who he said became combative.
ANDREW HALL: Mr. Perez was found to have a level of methamphetamine in his system that was 24 times the toxic level.
MICHAEL GEORGE: But the coroner’s office determined Perez died from asphyxia during restraint. Michael George, CBS News, New York.